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President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St. John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 2020.

President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St. John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 2020. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

DC Bishop 'Outraged' by Trump Clearing Protests With Tear Gas and Using Bible as a Prop for Church Photo Op

"Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence," the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde said of the president.

Jessica Corbett

President Donald Trump had police violently disperse peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets on Monday night so he could threaten to deploy the military to U.S. cities from the Rose Garden then walk to the nearby St. John's Episcopal Church for a photo op—moves sharply condemned by the bishop who oversees the church.

"Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence... We need moral leadership, and he's done everything to divide us."
—Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde

"I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop," the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde told the Washington Post.

"Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence," Budde said of the president, who threatened to use force to quash ongoing protests against police brutality and systemic racism. "We need moral leadership, and he's done everything to divide us."

Trump's speech and subsequent stunt outside the church—along with the swift backlash it provoked—came as demonstrations erupted around the world over the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis and the long history of discrimination and violence by U.S. law enforcement.

Budde denounced Trump's photo op—in which he held up a Bible and gathered with members of his administration outside the church—in a series of Monday night television appearances.

"Let me be clear: The president just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese without permission as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our churches stand for," Budde said on CNN.

"And to do so... he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard," she added. "I am outraged."

In an appearance on MSNBC, Budde said she found it "deeply offensive" that Trump used the chuch as a backdrop and the Bible as a prop, saying that the sacred text "call[s] upon us to love God and love neighbor... proclaims every human being to be a beloved child of God, and exhorts us to live lives of peace and justice."

In her position, Budde oversees more than 80 Episcopal congregations, including St. John's. In a written statement to the Post, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal denomination, also denounced Trump's behavior.

Curry accused the president of using "a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes." He added that "this was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us."

"The prophet Micah taught that the Lord requires us to 'do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God,'" Curry wrote. "For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us to be 'one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.'"

Less than 24 hours after the controversial Monday night appearance, the president was scheduled to visit the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Northeast Washington with First Lady Melania Trump on Tuesday morning before returning to the White House to sign an executive order on religious freedom.

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